Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill - use of snares and powers of Scottish SPCA inspectors: consultation analysis

Findings from our consultation on the use of snares and powers of Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) inspectors.

Chapter 1 Background


Snares are considered by some people to be an essential tool needed for the control of some animals, such as rabbits and foxes, in order to protect livestock, game birds and crops and to tackle biodiversity loss by protecting vulnerable species such as ground nesting birds. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (the “1981 Act”) restricts the type of snares that can be used to catch wild animals, requires snaring operators to be trained, for their snares to be identified by a tag containing an ID number registered with Police Scotland and for them to keep records, which must be made available to Police Scotland on request.

However, there have been continuing concerns that there is the potential for snares to cause significant injury, prolonged suffering and death to wildlife. There is also a risk that non-target wildlife species and pet animals such as cats and dogs can be caught in them. Many animal welfare groups have called for snares to be banned on animal welfare grounds.

Following a wider review of snaring, the Scottish Government found sufficient evidence to show that use of snares can lead to high levels of suffering for wild animals. Further, even where snares are used in strict accordance with the conditions set out in the 1981 Act, they remain, by their nature, indiscriminate and as such they pose a high risk to non-target species including other wildlife and domestic species such as cats. The review concluded that other, more humane methods of predator control such as shooting and trapping are available to land managers and that a ban on the use of snares would not prevent them from undertaking necessary wildlife management.

Therefore, in August 2023, the Scottish Government announced its intention to add provisions to the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill to ban the use of snares.

Scottish SPCA Powers

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“Scottish SPCA”) is a charity with the objectives of preventing cruelty to animals and encouraging kindness in their treatment. The Scottish SPCA is unique among animal charities as it is the only charity which is a reporting agency to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 (“the 2006 Act”), Scottish SPCA inspectors may enter and search premises under warrant, seize animals and issue animal welfare notices.

There have been ongoing concerns of a gap in the ability for Scottish SPCA inspectors to adequately respond to wildlife crime.

The Scottish SPCA are unable to investigate offences where an animal is not under the direct control of a person and is not being caused to suffer. It also means they are unable to investigate and, where appropriate seize, illegal traps, snares, poisonous baits and wild animals that may have died as a result of these activities.

This creates a situation where Scottish SPCA may find themselves at a location where an animal has already died, and they are unable to directly seize any evidence and/or cannot extend their search to wider areas of land in the immediate vicinity.

In June 2022, the then Minister for the Environment and Land Reform announced that there would be an independent review as to whether the Scottish SPCA should be given additional powers, through legislation, to allow them to investigate wildlife crime. In June 2023, the review recommended that further partnership working between the Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland should be taken forward. The Scottish Government agreed with that recommendation, however having considered the report in detail and conducted further discussions with key stakeholders, proposed that further limited powers for Scottish SPCA inspectors should be provided.

About the consultation

The consultation paper issued by the Scottish Government contained 7 numbered questions, some of which were multi-part questions with an initial closed (tick-box) question followed by space for comments. Altogether there were 7 closed questions and 6 open questions.

The consultation invited views on two topics:

  • the use of snares and cable restraints in Scotland (Qs 1 – 4)
  • powers of Scottish SPCA inspectors (Qs 5 – 7)

About the analysis

This report is based on a systematic analysis of the responses to the consultation. Frequency analysis of the closed questions was undertaken, and the findings are shown in tables throughout this report.

Comments made in response to each question were analysed qualitatively. The aim was to identify the main themes and the full range of views expressed in relation to each question, and to draw out areas of agreement and disagreement between different groups of respondents.

It should be noted, as with all consultations, that the views of those who have responded are not representative of the views of the wider population. Individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the capacity to respond – are more likely to participate in a consultation than those who do not. This self-selection means that the results reported cannot be generalised to the wider population. For this reason, the overall approach to consultation analysis is primarily qualitative in nature. Its main purpose is not to identify how many people held particular views, but rather to understand the full range of views expressed.

Finally, it is important to note that some of the responses to this consultation (especially those from organisations) contained technical information and references to other published and unpublished material. It is not possible in a report such as this to fully reflect the level of detail included in these submissions.


Email: rebecca.greenan@gov.scot

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